Homeland Security

Years After 9/11 Recommendations, Rail and Transit Employees Still Not Screened for Terror Connections

Security personnel patrol the train station Feb. 25, 2016, in Trenton, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

WASHINGTON —  The Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Administration have been stalling implementation of requirements to check rail and mass transit employees against the federal terror watch list, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

Schumer said closing the loophole is especially critical given recent acts of terrorism in the United States, but it’s still unresolved despite being called out several years ago in the 9/11 Commission Report.

“With terror threats from ISIS sympathizers and lone wolves ever possible, it is just not acceptable that every single front line transit employee is not checked against the federal terror watch list like airlines do,” Schumer said in a statement Sunday. “Railing for rail security is a no-brainer and we simply cannot leave our transportation arteries vulnerable to a possible terror threat.”

The incoming Senate minority leader said he’s “urging the feds to immediately finalize this commonsense employee background check so that our nation’s railways are kept safe.”

Schumer said transit employees in his home state who still don’t have to go through checks against the terror list include workers for Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, and Metro North.

A May report from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general noted that requirements from the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, or 9/11 Act, were yet to be implemented.

“Federal regulations require Amtrak to appoint a rail security coordinator and report significant security concerns to TSA. Although the 9/11 Act requires TSA to establish additional passenger rail regulations, the component has not fully implemented those regulations,” said the report. “Specifically, TSA has not issued regulations to assign rail carriers to high-risk tiers; established a rail training program; and conducted security background checks of frontline rail employees. In the absence of formal regulations, TSA relies on outreach programs, voluntary initiatives, and recommended measures to assess and improve rail security for Amtrak.”

“TSA attributes the delays in implementing the rail security requirements from the 9/11 Act primarily to the complex Federal rulemaking process. Although the rulemaking process can be lengthy, TSA has not prioritized the need to implement these rail security requirements. This is evident from TSA’s inability to satisfy these requirements more than 8 years after the legislation was passed,” the IG continued.

“Without fully implementing and enforcing the requirements from the 9/11 Act, TSA’s ability to strengthen passenger rail security may be diminished. The absence of regulations also impacts TSA’s ability to require Amtrak to make security improvements that may prevent or deter acts of terrorism.”